reviews\ Nov 7, 2011 at 8:30 am

Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Tenkaichi Review


Over the years, Dragon Ball Z games have managed to entertain throngs of anime fans, even though the series went through its most popular anime run years ago.  Namco Bandai must have a heavy reliance on this, because it’s back with yet another game in the series, Ultimate Tenkaichi.  Once again, Goku, Piccolo and the gang of intergalactically supercharged fighters take on each other in a flurry of punches and fireballs.  Fans should be thrilled by this.  Everyone else will probably wonder what all the fuss is about.

The game does feature a story mode, but unless you’re a devoted DBZ fan, it probably won’t make much sense.  You’ve got fighters that are determined to hold super powers beyond their grasp, and the likes of Goku and other would-be heroes trying to keep it out of their hands.  Then some interesting new faces show up, including what appears to be a large cybernetic gorilla and…well, it gets silly.  But then again, so did the show.

But where the show managed to carry some appeal with its over-the-top antics, Ultimate Tenkaichi can’t quite match up.  That’s because Namco Bandai relied too closely on mimicking the characters’ actions from the show, rather than creating a sustainable fighting game.  One half consists of up-close combat, where it’s a matter of tapping the buttons as furiously as possible to execute combos and knock an opponent into the middle of next week, whether it’s underwater, on land or in the air.  The other half is a distant fireball flinging game, where you have to dodge incoming attacks and then counter by throwing projectiles at your opponent and then rushing in.

A lot of these fights require the use of quick-time events, where you have to hit the button at the right time in order to be successful, whether you’re bum-rushing near an opponent or preparing a counter-attack.  But most of the time, it’s a matter of luck rather than how perfectly you hit the button, which means the fight could go either way – no matter how skilled you are.  Balance is everything in a fighting game, and Ultimate Tenkaichi sorely lacks it, instead leaning on the “let’s throw everything at you” formula.  And crashing as a result.

It gets even worse with boss fights.  Rather than going mano-a-mano with someone your size, you frenetically chip away at a larger enemy, once again relying on hitting the right buttons.  Hit the wrong ones too often and you’re planted into the ground.  Unless you’re a devotee willing to push yourself through DBZ’s demanding paces, you’re likely to get turned off.

Ultimate Tenkaichi does come with a training mode, but it’s laborious and doesn’t quite walk you through all the paces of how to perform moves.  Once you finish that, you can try to comprehend story mode (good luck) or go online to battle others.  However, in the multiple times we attempted to fight someone online, we found slightly noticeable lag, as well as a virtually empty lobby on one occasion.

The most notable mode is Hero Mode, where you can actually create your own hero in the DBZ universe and put them through their paces.  It sounds promising at first, but the very limited options will leave you wondering how sorely Namco and Spike dropped the Dragon Ball.

It’s too bad, because, visually, Namco Bandai has Dragon Ball Z dialed in almost perfectly.  The over-the-top animations are frame-by-frame with that of the anime, and the backdrops are impressive, if somewhat vast.  The cinemas have some style to them, and the camera makes it easy to keep an eye on your opponent, even if they’re like a mile away.  Likewise, the audio’s not bad, with plenty of solid voice acting by the anime’s cast and explosions that stem from your fireball and impact attacks.  Some of the dialogue is silly but, again, that’s the idea.

Had Namco Bandai wrapped the Dragon Ball Z franchise around a strong fighting engine, like the one used with the upcoming Street Fighter x Tekken, we’d really be getting somewhere.  Alas, that just didn’t happen with Ultimate Tenkaichi, and, as a result, only a certain few fans will find it to their liking.  Everyone else can easily wait for Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 to get their virtual kicks.

[Reviewed on PlayStation 3]


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